Dispatches from the NACAC 2014 Conference in Indianapolis, IN & 8 Fun Facts About Indianapolis

September 19th, 2014


This year the national conference for the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) is held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Founded in 1937, NACAC is an organization of more than 13,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education.

This is ACEI’s first NACAC Conference and I am here with our Assistant Director of Marketing, Yolinisse Moreno, where we will be tending to our booth in the Exhibit Hall for the next two days. The conference and the exhibit hall officially opened on Thursday, September 18th and will end on Saturday, September 20th.

Yolinisse Moreno, Anonymous Football Player, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

Yolinisse Moreno, Assistant Director of Marketing, ACEI

View of a corner of the Exhibit Hall

Our first day has proven to be a great success and we have our new display banner and glossy new literature to thank for helping attract visitors to our booth. We happily shared information about ACEI and the benefits of international credential evaluations. Visitors to our booth are counselors at public and private high schools, boarding schools, colleges and universities and with the increasing flow of international students to the U.S., they are recognizing the importance and necessity of having their academic transcripts evaluated for U.S. educational equivalence. We also met the folks at US News and Education. I was happy to see them stop by our booth since I follow their online blog and Facebook posts on higher education and related news.


Since we’re here in Indianapolis, we thought it would be good to share some facts about this city:

1. Indianapolis is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Indiana, and also the county seat of Marion County. As of the 2010 census, the city’s population is 820,445.

2. There are 19 institutions of higher learning in Indianapolis, ranging from two-year colleges and technical schools to private and public four-year universities. The largest is Indiana University-
Purdue University at Indianapolis, which offers associate, undergraduate, and graduate degree programs. Private four-year institutions include Butler University and the University of Indianapolis. Other institutions of higher education include IVY Tech State College, Marian College, and Martin University.

3. Indianapolis is home to the two largest single-day sporting events in the world, the Indianapolis 500 (Indy 500) and the Brickyard 400.

A Formula One racecar, up close and personal at the Exhibit Hall

4. The Indy 500 track is so large that Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Coliseum and Vatican City can all fit inside the iconic oval, covering 253 acres.

5. Though Indianapolis is often a proving ground for stars from the world of sports, every four years Indianapolis hosts the International Violin Competition—a 17-day event—drawing competitors from around the globe. In fact, the finals were held yesterday, on September 17, 2014.

6. Indianapolis’ historic Union Station was the first union station in the world, opening in September 1853. In fact, Thomas Edison worked there as a telegraph operator in 1861.

7. Indianapolis is home to the world’s largest children’s museum in both square footage and number of artifacts (500,000 square feet in size and over 100,000 exhibits and artifacts).

8. Elvis performed his last concert in downtown Indianapolis in June 1977.

Well, that’s it for now. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates on the next two days here at NACAC in Indianapolis.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO, ACEI



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25 Interesting Facts About Scotland

September 11th, 2014


On September 16, 2014, Scotland will hold a referendum that will decide its independence from the United Kingdom. Scotland is a sovereign state in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and is part of the UK’s constitutional monarchy. If the referendum in favor of independence gathers the votes it needs, Scotland will secede from the UK.

As we wait in anticipation of the outcome of the referendum, we felt it would be helpful to learn more about this country and share with you a few interesting facts.


1. Scotland was an independent country and never took kindly to invaders but nevertheless it unified with England in 1707 when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of both England and Scotland after the death eased Queen Elizabeth I. Their merger formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain giving rise to factions which to this day opposed the unification. For more history check this link: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/

Geography & People


2. The Flag of Scotland is a white X-shaped cross, which represents the cross of the patron saint of Scotland, Saint Andrew on a blue field. The flag is called the Saltire or the Saint Andrew’s Cross.

3. Scotland includes over 790 islands. These include groups called Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.

4. The population of Scotland in 2011 was around 5.3 million.

5. The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh while the largest city is Glasgow. Other major cities include Aberdeen and Dundee.

Image: Edinburgh

6. Scotland has three officially recognized languages: English, Scots (a relative of English) and Scottish Gaelic (a completely different language).


7. As part of the UK, Scotland’s education system is separate and governed from within Scotland.

8. Scotland emphasizes on a broad education system and was the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education.

9. There are 14 Scottish universities some of which are the oldest universities in the world.

10. The University of St Andrews, founded in 1413, is the third oldest university in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge. It welcomed Britain’s first female student in 1862. It is also where the world’s first students’ union came into existence in 1882.


11. The world’s first infant school was opened by philosopher and pedagogue Robert Owen in New Lanark in 1816.

Economy & Resources

12. Aberdeen has become an important center for the oil industry after the finding of oil in the North Sea.

13. Edinburgh is Europe’s fifth largest financial center.

14. Scotland offers free water for its citizens, although oil and nuclear energy are governed by the UK.

15. Although their health system is part of the greater National Health Service, Scotland controls its implementation (which allows them to provide free prescriptions to everyone, something England does not do).

Government & Judicial System

16. Scotland also has its own judicial system and unlike most western systems, courts can reach the decision of guilty, not guilty, or not proved.

17. The police force of Scotland is separate from that of the rest of the UK.

18. Scotland also has its own distinct parliament, which is chaired by the First Minister of Scotland.


19. Notable Scottish inventions include: the method of logarithms (1614), tarmac (1820), first-ever house to be lit by gas (1784), the waterproof raincoat (1823), the hot blast furnace (1828), the modern, rear-wheel driven bicycle (1839), the pneumatic tire (1845) and reinvented in a more practical way (1887) known today as Dunlop Rubber (now under the joint ownership of Goodyear and Sumitomo Rubber Industries), and the discovery of the anesthetic properties of chloroform in 1847 which was successfully introduced for general medical use. (There are many more inventions by Scottish inventors, a list too long for this blog. For more information check this link: http://listverse.com/2014/01/05/10-things-you-should-know-about-scotland/)

Fun / Odd Facts

20. Genetic studies are now pointing that the mutation for red hair, which now reaches a world maximum in Western Scotland and Northern Ireland, may have originated in Central Asia too. This means that Scottish people may be (partly) descended from ancient people from Central Asia. Surprised? So were we, so here’s one source: www.eupedia.com


21. Archaeological evidence suggests that the first toilets ever were possibly built in Orkney, Scotland in 3,000 BC.

22. Scotland is reputed for its whisky, known outside Scotland as Scotch Whisky. Yet, what few people know is that whisky was in fact invented in China, and was first distilled by monks in Ireland in the early 15th century before reaching Scotland 100 years later.

23. The most infamous Scottish dish is haggis, normally made with sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for approximately an hour.


24. Kilts, tartans and bagpipes aren’t Scottish inventions. Kilts originated in Ireland. Tartans ere found in Bronze-age or Iron-age Central Europe (Hallstatt culture) and Central Asia (Tocharian culture). Bagpipes might also be an ancient invention from Central Asia. These could be debated so here’s the link to the source http://www.tamos.net/~rhay/shenkman.html.


25. A few more Scottish dishes known for their odd names include: Forfar Bridie (a meat pastry), Cock-a-leekie (soup), Collops (escalope), Crappit heid (fish dish), Finnan haddie (haddock fish), Arbroath Smokie (smoked haddock), Cullen Skink (haddock soup), Partan bree (seafood dish), Mince and tatties (minced meat and potatoes), Rumbledethumps, Skirlie and so on. And, of course, there is the ubiquitous shortbread, Scotland’s most famous cookie.

Bonus fact!

26. Scotland, the official animal of Scotland is the Unicorn, appreciated for its purity and strength. http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/scottish-fact-of-the-week-scotland-s-official-animal-the-unicorn-1-2564399 .


It was King James I who drew up a new royal coat of arms that included both the traditional English lion as well as the Scottish Unicorn. According to folklore (going back to the ancient Babylonians in 3,500 B.C.), the lion and the unicorn hate each other. The Unicorn is seen as representing spring and the lion representing summer. Each year the two fight for supremacy, and each year the lion eventually wins. A popular English nursery rhyme sums up the animosity and the old wars between England and Scotland:

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown;
The lion beat the unicorn
All round about the town.

The lion’s supremacy may come to an end, if Scotland’s upcoming referendum tilts in favor of independence and secession. The unicorn will prove to be the victor after all.

Slainte! (That’s Good Health in Scots)



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INDIA: The 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report

September 4th, 2014


In 2000, at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, all 189-member nations (today the UN has 193 members) committed to help meet ambitious development targets across categories such as primary education, nutrition, health, mortality, sanitation and others.

The new Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 examines the latest progress made towards achieving the MDGs. It shows that millions of people’s lives have improved due to concerted global, regional, national and local efforts to achieve the MDGs, which serve as the foundation for the next global development agenda. 

The following MDGs Report on India, was released by Najma Heptulla, the Union Minister for Minority Affairs. Jayati Ghosh, Professor, JNU and Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator.

(Source: http://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/mdgoverview/)

As demonstrated in the table shown above, India has made moderate progress with respect to Goal 1: poverty; Goal 4: gender equality; Goal 7: HIV/AIDS. It is also on-track with respect to Goal 3: achieving universal primary education; Goal 9: environmental protection; Goal 12: developing global partnerships for development. However, the country is off-track with respect to Goal 2: hunger; Goal 5: reducing mortality rate, Goal 11: improving the lives of slum dwellers. Though there is partial successes achieved on targets and indicators with respect to Goal 3: education; Goal s 7 and 6: health, there are a few caveats. For example, the school enrollment rates are ahead of the targets, but the dropout rates are also high. The incidence of HIV/AIDS has come down, but what is alarming is that HIV/AIDS incidence is increasing in states where it used to be low. The performance of the majority of states on many of the goals and targets has been below satisfactory.



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The High Cost of Higher Education and Emergence of Affordable Alternatives.

August 28th, 2014


The Good Old Days

According to a 2013 Bloomberg Report, “the cost of higher education has surged more than 500 percent since 1985.” Seventy years ago, most Americans thought college was only for the wealthy elite. This perspective changed after World War II with the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill of Rights. The law made higher education affordable and veterans who never would have thought of going beyond high school were enrolling in college.

June 22, 1944: FDR signs GI Bill or Rights

One would have expected this surge in college enrollment to give rise to higher tuition, but that was not the case. In fact, states embraced the idea. Benefitting from the booming postwar economy, states were spending unprecedented sums of money to expand higher education while the government was setting up programs to help families pay for tuition. This led to the implementation of the National Defense Student Loan program, later called the Federal Perkins Loan program, which did for civilians what the GI Bill had done for veterans and helped expand access to a college education even more.

With the civil rights movement came the landmark Higher Education Act of 1965 that promoted greater college access for women and minorities. Colleges and universities looked at ways they could help by providing grants and other forms of student financial aid in partnership with the new federal program.

Trouble in Paradise

But a shift began to happen in the mid 1970’s when college tuition and fees began to climb triggered by double-digit inflation, an oil embargo and a sputtering economy. We started seeing the emergence of private loans, heavily subsidized by the federal government, replacing federal grants that became the main source of money for college students from both poor and middle-class households. Public investment in higher education dropped forcing the colleges to look elsewhere to replace their loss of funding. They did this by increasing tuition and fees and gradually the perception that higher tuition meant a better quality of education became a commonly accepted belief system.

And today, with the sluggish economy and a job market that is unable to meet the demand of new graduates who are burdened with unprecedentedly high student loan debts, the rising cost of higher education in proportion to its merits are debatable. Parents are beginning to look at higher education with a keener eye and helping their children find less-expensive options as they realized that guaranteed access to affordable college education is no longer the entitlement many Americans thought it was 40 years ago.

What’s the alternative?

Parents are looking at alternatives to the high-priced four-year institutions, and one is the community college. The current price of a four-year state institution is triple that of a community college. High school graduates can easily transition into a community college, which is an excellent preparation for what lies ahead at a four-year institution. At a community college they can complete the general education requirements at a fraction of the cost it would have been had they entered a four-year institution. A student completing the GE requirements at a community college can transfer to a four-year institution to complete the courses for a major.

Another possible good news about community colleges is that California’s state legislature has passed a bill that will allow a small number of community colleges to offer the bachelor’s degree. If Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill, California will be the 22nd to expand the reach of community colleges. The goal is not to compete directly with traditional four-year institution but offer baccalaureate programs in workforce fields such as dental hygiene, information technology, and automotive-technology management, to name a few. In California, the total tuition for a community college bachelor’s degree will be $10,560. Compared to a traditional college education, a community college bachelor’s degree is a great bargain. This affordable tuition can be seen as a threat to private, for-profit schools that offer the same type of workforce degrees.

Other affordable alternatives, of course, include the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which at this time appear to benefit mostly those who already have a college degree and the discipline for self-study. But a new school has emerged which WGBH did a story on and it’s called the Minerva Project, a for-profit university offering online courses to students while moving them around the world together throughout the four years. Minerva Project is launching its first class this fall with thirty mostly non-U.S. institutions who will take the online classes starting in San Francisco, followed by Berlin and then Buenos Aires. The cost of this innovative tuition is $10,000 per year plus living expenses.

When it comes to higher education, parents are becoming smart consumers and it is beginning to look like there are alternatives that are affordable and offer the college bound students the training which prepares them academically and the skills needed for the real world.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert


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Walter Benjamin: Why Is Art Worth More Than Music?

August 21st, 2014


German Philosopher Walter Benjamin: 1892-1940

Walter Benjamin was a German philosopher (1892-1940) whose most famous work from 1936 was called The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. You can read here. In his famous work, he discusses originality, authenticity, and mass production of art. He writes about the “aura” that original works of art possess and the loss of that “aura” in works that have been reproduced. A painting by Picasso has an aura. A lithograph by Picasso in a run of 250 copies does not. The lithograph is not the original. Neither does photography have an aura. In his thinking, photos are the image of an image.


Why is Man With Blue Guitar worth so much more than Kind Of Blue?

What about music? Why is an original master tape of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue worth eons less than Picasso’s Man with the Blue Guitar? Why do most iconic jazz musicians make so much less money than iconic fine artists? Why didn’t Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, or John Coltrane fetch the kind of money Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, or Mark Rothko have made? Is it because record companies pressed thousands if not millions of their records, and that all performances on those records were identical? What about the master tape, the original? Is it worth less because it has been copied, just like lithographs?

And yet a signed copy of say, Kind of Blue would still be worth much less than a signed lithograph by Matisse or Picasso.

Walter Benjamin committed suicide in 1940 when he believed he couldn’t cross the Spanish / French border and escape death from the nazis. He had gone there, like Hemingway and George Orwell, to help the Republicans. When Franco called in the Luftwaffe to test out the new ME 109s and bomb Guernica, Picasso painted the horrendous painting of the same name. Too bad Walter Benjamin didn’t live longer, or write about musical recordings and the rise of the music industry after World War II.


Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

Blogs for Rhythm Planet

Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons


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Yachay: A South American Silicon Valley in Ecuador

August 14th, 2014


Ecuador is creating a new city of knowledge called Yachay; a Quechua Indian word that means knowledge, or learning. It is building a research university and city in Urcuquí, Imbabura Province to function as an academic, technological and scientific. The campus expands over an area of approximately 12,000 acres near the snowcapped Andean peaks in northern Ecuador. In one promotional video on Yachay, the tag line is: Ciudad de Conocimiento (City of Knowledge) Investiga! Innova! Produce! (Research! Innovate! Produce!)

Yachay is to become the first planned city of its kind and its mission is to transform the country into an exporter of knowledge which Ecuador sees as the key to access the new global economic structure. Yachay University is a proposed institution planned by the government of Ecuador.

Image of the future City of Knowledge, Yachay

The idea came about in 2013 after President Rafael Correa toured Asia and so impressed was he with the technologically advanced research and business clusters in the countries he had visited, in particular South Korea and Singapore, that he envisioned something similar for Ecuador. Rich in oil and gold deposits, the country’s natural resources may soon run out which is why President Correa wants to steer Ecuador away from an economy that is largely based on oil-extraction and mining. He wants to take Ecuador through an academic and technological revolution with Yachay; a $1.04 billion initiative to build a research university surrounded by labs, industrial parks and, ultimately, a city…a South American Silicon Valley in Ecuador.

The heart of Yachay will be Yachay University (Universidad de Investigación de Tecnología Experimental), the technological experimental university that Ecuador wants to make into an important academic establishment. The focus of the university is to develop research around five key areas: life science, nanoscience, petrochemistry, renewable energies, information and communications technology. Yachay University will be one of four universities, and supposed to collaborate with public and private research institutions. Here’s the link to the promotional YouTube video on Yachay

The university will cater to 4000 students, offering internationally recognized undergraduate, graduate and doctorate degree programs. It will facilitate access to national and international research endeavors. The institution is said to retain world-class teaching staff that will work with Ecuadoran universities on research projects. According to a July 14th article in the Miami Herald: “Some 174 students have been recruited from across the country and are taking intensive math and English courses on campus as they prepare for formal studies next year.”

Rene Ramirez, Ecuadorian Minister of Higher Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation, hopes Yachay University will one day be on par with the likes of Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the California Institute of Technology. Yachay University has already attracted the likes of Sanford, Cal Tech and Kansas State University is offering English language instructions. According to September 2013 plans, the University was to open in the first quarter of 2014.

Yachay wants to attract new, innovative and high tech businesses in telecommunications, petrochemistry, health sciences and nano technology. Companies such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and China Telecom have already set up in Yachay. The goal is to attract foreign investors converting Yachay into a hub of employment.

Success as a world-class research university requires not only financial security as well as also autonomy on the part of the institution, but to the critics of this project, Yachay is seen as a government enterprise leaving little room for academic freedom. Other critics see Yachay as a university of the elites, isolated and cut off from the rest of Ecuador operating in a vacuum while much of the country is poor and underdeveloped. Many also argue as to why the billions spent on building Yachay is not being allocated to Ecuador’s existing struggling public universities. Supporters of Yachay argue that Ecuador’s public institutions have failed to make any progress in research and innovation and that Yachay University in fact will help reduce the country’s brain drain. An example I recently heard was a report on Yachay by NPR’s All Things Considered about a 17-year old Ecuadoran who turned down a full scholarship to a top university in Belgium to study genetic engineering in order to attend Yachay University.

All this sounds very ambitious, or as the blogger Eric Mack said in his post, this could very well be the pipeline to the future or a pipe dream. I, for one, would like to see this ambitious endeavor succeed, but not at the expense of the country’s existing public universities. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Frustrated Evaluator


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10 Fast Facts on Mauritania

August 7th, 2014


Recently, I saw a performance by the Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali, who plays the 9-string harp, the ardin (reserved only for women), and her talented musicians at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The Skirball hosts free summer concerts bringing in international artists and performers to give us Angelenos a taste of the musical flavors from around the world. Noura’s melodic voice and music, a blend of Berber, Afro-pop, and desert blues had everyone on their feet dancing; transporting us to a desert oasis thousands of miles away.

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HLfWoZhC7s

Influenced by its Moorish past, Mauritania has a rich and thriving music culture (as evidenced by the performers I saw at the Skirball).

In terms of geography, Mauritania (three times the size of Arizona) is situated in northwest Africa with about 350 mi (592 km) of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. In the north, it is bordered by Morocco and on the east by Algeria and Mali, and Senegal on the south. The country is 70% desert and growing because of ongoing droughts, with the exception of the fertile Senegal River valley in the south and grazing land in the north.

Image source: Steve McCurry’s Blog

The history of Mauritania dates back to the 3rd century AD. The original settlers of Mauritania were the Bafours people. Berber tribes began migrating to the region between the 3rd and 7th century AD removing all traces of the Bafours people. The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War occurred between 1644 and 1647 when the Beber fought against the Beni Hassan tribes and Maqil Arab invaders.

Mauritania was first explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century, but by the 19th century the French had gained control and became one of the colonies that constituted French West Africa. In 1946, it was named a French overseas territory.

Now, here are some fast facts on Mauritania:

1. Mauritania gained its independence from France on Nov. 28, 1960, and was admitted to the United Nations in 1961. (Having once been a French colony, Mauritannia’s education system has been heavily influenced by the francophone system which is still prevalent today even after its independence.)

2. The capital of Mauritania is Nouakchott, which means “place of the winds.” It was designated as the country’s capital only in 1960 and is therefore one of the world’s newest capitals.

Nouakchott, capital of Mauritannia

3. Mauritania is one of the last countries to abolish slavery. It passed a law in 1981 to abolish slavery. Yet, according to 2003 estimates, despite the legislation against slavery, there still exists around 90,000 slaves in Mauritania.

Image source: http://borgenproject.org/modern-day-slavery-mauritania/

4. Majority of Mauritanians are devout Moslems and belong to the Sunni sect.

5. Arabic is the official and national language. Other languages spoken include: Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French, Hassaniya (a variety of Arabic).


6. If you look at Mauritania from space, you can see a clear bull’s-eye-like image called “The Eye of Africa.” It is a Richat structure with a diameter of about 30 miles and believed to be the result of the simultaneous lifting of the underlying geology. It is, nevertheless, quite striking.


7. With about 40% of its population still below the poverty line, Mauritania depends heavily on iron ore exports, fishing and off shore oil wells for its economic progress. In addition to ion ore, Mauritania’s other natural resources include gold, gypsum, phosphate, diamonds, copper and oil.

8. Mauritania’s extensive coastline offers excellent opportunities for those who wish to explore the beach, surf, swim or fish in the sea.


9. France’s colonial influence is apparent in Mauritania’s education system that follows the francophone system. Primary school covers 6 years and begins at age six, followed by 7 years of secondary education which leads to the Secondary Education Diploma “Diplome du Baccalauréat de l’Enseignement du Secondaire” (BAC),

10. Mauritania’s University of Nouakchott offers two-year Diploma programs (“Diplome d’Etudes Universitaires Géneralés” also called “DEUG”) followed by two additional years for the “Maitrise.” There are also seven specialized institutions of higher education

Bonus fact:
11. Mauritania’s Bay of Nouadhibou, hides one of the biggest ships cemeteries in the world. There are more than 300 wrecks from all nations beached permanently on its shores. (For more images of shipwrecks on Mauritania’s shores click here: http://www.fogonazos.es/2006/11/shipwrecks-on-coast-of-mauritania.html)






Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert


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